September '98 Newsletter

It seems like this has been a longer, hotter, and drier summer in Phoenix. Fortunately, frequent travel has allowed us to escape for almost a week out of every two for most of it. During the past two months, things have been happening so quickly that the next six quiet months could truly be our vacation from vacationing. It's a shame but one can be overwhelmed with having fun. At times the human condition seems to yearn for normalcy and home life.

As you can see from the trips planned for next year, we will be concentrating on rafting in the western states and foreign travel during 1999. Susan's parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in August of next year and we intend to spend much of that month in Minnesota, possibly spending a week or so canoeing somewhere in the Boundary Waters. The two foreign trips we have planned will each take a month of our time. Including the 5-6 weeks of rafting we do each year, a full third of 1999 is already planned. The only time we had left for a domestic group trip was the fall and the only type of trip we were sorry we weren't doing was a backpack, so we've scheduled an old favorite for October.

Since there was limited future trip information to include in this newsletter we focused on trip reports. We think you will enjoy the different slants in a couple of these. It turns out that many of those who travel with us keep trip journals. Recognizing this we asked a couple of them if they would contribute their notes, willingly suffer Bob's editorial prerogative, and let us publish the result. Each of these reports has the primary author's name accompanying it. We hope you enjoy the results. Since space is limited we also left out the normal fall mailing application. With only the future trip longs, and what we have been doing during the fall, we expect the December newsletter to be shorter so we will include a '99 mailing application for everyone at that time. Unfortunately, if you are new to our mailing list you may not have an opportunity to get a second mailing application in case you didn't submit the first one. Contact us if you want more than the usual two complimentary copies.

We still have space on our foreign trips, especially the Peru adventure. Our hope is that a hotel trip that visits all of the prime attractions of last year's trip will intrigue those of you who couldn't envision yourselves carrying a 40 pound backpack up 5000' to a 14,000' pass on the Inca Trail and then descending 2500' to camp. If you are at all interested in safely, and economically, dayhiking and van traveling in the Inca Sacred Valley region of Peru with a group, this will probably be our last offering there. The list of people we travel with is small and unless a trip like this fills instantly, it is unlikely we'll ever repeat it. Both of these trips promise to be very special. Why not schedule some time next summer, set aside any apprehensions, and join us in exotic Peru?

'98 Trip Reports:

Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado (7/19 - 7/25) by Susan Groth:

It was great to leave Phoenix and the 115° heat behind as we headed north for Durango. We pulled over for a few hours sleep at a rest area near the Mesa Verde turn-off and were in Durango early to start our search for secure parking. After affirming that we could park vehicles for a week at Ft. Lewis College and Albertsons, we were free to goof off until it was time to meet the rest of our group. We purchased the last of our perishables and searched out John Justice at his motel. We quickly gave up on an afternoon joy ride towards Silverton when heavy rain and winds greeted us. We found a laundromat that had pay showers and took our last hot one, while waiting for Andrew and Cliff to fly in and meet us for dinner. When John drove out to the airport to get them he found their plane had been diverted to Farmington due to high winds. He went back later but it was getting late for us so we gave up joint dinner plans. We walked around downtown for awhile and celebrated our 11th anniversary a day late at the Golden Dragon on Main Street. After a little last minute food packing, we pulled the truck around to the back of the Albertsons' parking lot and settled in for a good night's sleep.

Susan was elated to get her first cup of coffee at Albertsons at 5 AM before we went to the train station to wait for everyone. At 6 AM, our fellow backpackers started showing up and even the few we'd never met easily found us. We laid the commissary out on the lawn and Bob left with the drivers to park the vehicles at the college. Most of us grabbed a quick breakfast and much needed coffee at nearby McDonalds before boarding the train. Cliff brought us a souvenir New York shot glass, which we elected to save for home use, knowing that none of us would be able to gulp a shot of the pure cane alcohol we were carrying for happy hour. Anne brought Susan a lime green environmental t-shirt that she had made up for one of her classes. It was fun to see so many old friends again.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail Road dropped us off at Elk Park after about a two hour ride. We had seats in one of the open gondola cars and they stored our packs in a box car, along with the packs of an Oklahoma Boy Scout group of 26 and a few independent travelers who were getting off at the same stop and doing essentially the same loop we planned. The train ride was scenic and we were all pumped to hit the trail. The cinders from the steam engine bothered a few of us but all in all it was a pleasant ride through mountainous terrain along the Animas River.

After a few minutes of pack sorting and re-grouping at Elk Park, we were off in search of adventure, which we soon found in terms of an overly steep ascent. Between altitude change, heavy pack weights, lungs clogged with cinders, and just plain lack of fitness, some of us were really huffing and puffing. Even so, we left the scouts behind and were not to see them again for several days. There were quite a few people coming down the trail including what looked like an Elderhostel group followed by a string of pack llamas. The trail was vibrant with wildflowers, a minute preview of what was to come. We had lunch on the slopes next to the stream and made our first night's camp after just four miles. With the heavy loads we didn't want to overdo and we were hoping the short day would help us acclimatize to the altitude. It was a clear evening and most of us turned in rather early.

Our second day on the trail, we climbed steadily to the miners' cabin for lunch through fields of Colorado columbine, penstamen, six varieties of Indian paint brush, larkspur, monks hood, and dozens of others we couldn't identify. Along the way, we encountered a number of sleek marmots on the rocks. Still high above us we could see the dreaded 27 switch backs and the Continental Divide. Not wishing to be exposed to afternoon lightening storms, we climbed quickly to the Divide and down the other side to Kite Lake. Views from the ridge were spectacular and the green slopes alive with color. Unfortunately, vehicle access in the Kite Lake Valley somewhat spoils the wilderness experience. We found a nice but tight campsite just past the lake. Flat spots were at a premium as pick-up campers occupied the best camps. The motorized campers were polite but their presence was annoying just the same. The late afternoon brought intermittent showers and we were glad we'd brought the big green tarp along. Andrew and Dave weren't able to round up enough people for a Hearts game so they had a rousing game of Crazy 8's after the rest of us retired.

Day three we're going to simply name Bob's Excellent Adventure. At least he thought so, the rest of us weren't so sure. Our plan was to rise early, hike over 12,600' Ute Pass on the Continental Divide Trail to the Rock Creek/Flint Creek Pass, and descend to lower elevations to camp. This was expected to be a long day, nearly 12 miles. The way was scenic and we saw a small herd of elk in the valley below Ute Pass. The rain and hail started just as we pulled out lunch. We found a dry spot under some pines and set it up any way. Around Middle Ute Lake, we became slightly disoriented - another word for LOST- and went over a seldom visited pass directly into the Vallecito Creek drainage. Along the trail, Susan found a prescription bottle that contained a silver bar and a gold nugget on quartz. Back to the adventure: we found ourselves scrambling down an ever-steepening ravine searching for a trail that was obviously not there. With nearly 2000' of descent left, we ended up poised precariously above the junction of Rock and Vallecito creeks. Somehow, Bob found a direct route through steep boulder-strewn scree slopes, around narrow exposed ledges, and down near perpendicular treed slopes by clinging to trembling aspens. With ten of us lurching downhill with packs, we all know why they were trembling. Several times, we seemed stopped by vertical falls only to find another game trail bypass.

Exhausted after a couple of suspenseful hours of this, we reached the Rock Creek Trail and proceeded to a beautiful campsite by Vallecito Creek. It was 6:30 PM, we'd been on the trail since 8 AM and were 2 miles past our intended campsite. Our little adventure was not without cost. Cliff lost his sleeping pad and bag off the bottom of his pack without realizing it, John lost the soles off of his boots and banged his tail bone descending the scree slope, and Bob injured his back, which bothered him for the rest of the trip. The rest of us except for Big Dave, were unscathed except for exhaustion, myriad scratches and ill temper. Big Dave was mildly tired but otherwise unaffected. We soon learned to give him the heaviest commissary each day and even that was not much of a handicap. We elected to have a quick dinner and immediately went into cooking mode. Surprisingly, there were still a few people with enough energy to build a campfire and take baths. Ron thought this was definitely a Jack Daniels night and passed his personal stash liberally after dinner, which was appreciated by all.

It drizzled a little during the night but the following morning was clear. Susan snuck off to take a shower in the early morning and looked up to find herself surrounded by horses. They came through our camp a couple of different times before we left. After the previous day's ordeal, we took a leisurely morning start. The 5-6 miles down Vallecito Creek to our Johnson Creek camp, was pleasant without much elevation change. We were now meeting a few more backpackers along the trail, as we were in a more popular area. We were also running into hoards of biting flies, probably due to the pack stock and warmer temperatures.

Our camp below the Johnson Creek confluence with roaring Vallecito Creek was by far our best. Upstream storms changed the clarity of the creek during the day but it was still a great swimming hole enjoyed by all. We spent a lazy afternoon doing laundry, bathing, napping and playing Hearts. That evening we found that CJ and Anne had a real talent for cheesecake making. The freeze-dried blueberries weren't quite as sweet as the ones Susan later found along the trail but we certainly didn't have any complaints or left-overs. After dinner, the guys practiced rock ax technique on the available dry logs and had a cleaner fire that burned down to almost nothing. It sprinkled on and off during the night. Temperatures were varying from about 65 during the day to about 45 at night, quite pleasant hiking weather.

The climb up the Johnson Creek drainage to our 11,200' treeline campsite was spectacular. We ascended along waterfalls and rock slides, admiring flowers and munching blueberries and strawberries along the way. We met several people coming down from Columbine Pass and after hearing that Chicago Basin was averaging about 60 people a day camping, we knew we'd made the right choice of camps. It was slightly overcast in the morning but by late afternoon blue skies appeared overhead. Our camp was gorgeous, surrounded by meadows filled with flowers and good views of Columbine Pass looming above. Late in the afternoon, the Boy Scouts who had been with us on the train caught up and camped slightly past us. They had put in a long day getting back on schedule to meet the Saturday train, covering in one day what we had leisurely done in two. After dinner, we had another great campfire and another raucous Hearts game. Late in the evening CJ became obsessed with breaking one of the already charred logs that he couldn't break with a rock ax. His fire dance even had people who were already in the sack rolling with laughter and we're wondering how he explained his singed legs and high tops to his family.

Our last full day on the trail, we were up early, pumped for going over Columbine Pass. The wildflowers just kept getting better and better. At the Pass, we took a 10-20 minute break to re-group and take some pictures. The clouds were starting to move in and we could see the Scouts struggling up the grade below us in the swirling mist. There were a number of old mines on both sides of the pass and we stopped briefly at an old cabin on our way down. Within a few minutes of dropping over the side, we were enveloped in a light mist which was followed by drizzle. We found a hardship camp at the top end of the Basin and decided to stay, not knowing how full the lower camps would be. There was a brief break in the drizzle as we ate lunch. We no sooner got the food hung up and our tents erected when it poured as hard as any rain we'd had. Reading and napping in our tents in the late afternoon, we heard the Scouts go by singing. Dinner was a group effort with CJ and Anne making another exceptional couple of pies. Big Dave finally won the Hearts game after dinner.

We got an early start again just to make sure we were on time for the train. There were lots of ripe blueberries and raspberries along the trail. It was still a little overcast and drizzled occasionally. Unfortunately, John woke up with a fever on our last morning and wasn't feeling well. Some of us stopped just short of the train stop and took a quick bath. We had lunch at the bridge and a Hearts game ensued while we waited. The train was about 30 minutes late and while we were waiting, the rain started. There were close to 70 of us waiting to board at Needleton. You can imagine our surprise when it arrived and the conductor announced that we would have to duke it out for the available 30 seats, the losers waiting in the rain a minimum of two hours for a train that may or may not have space. Trying to avoid a riot, he eventually let us all board to stand in the aisles for the two hour ride. While we were glad to be out of the rain and headed for town, we were disappointed that they had resold the seats that we reserved and paid for months in advance. Unless they change their policy, we wouldn't recommend using the train to access the Weminuche Wilderness area.

Back in town, we walked two blocks to the Albertsons where we took cover from a continuing drizzle while the drivers recovered our vehicles from the college. John, Cliff, Andrew, Ron, Anne, and Dave spent a night in Durango, while Craig, CJ, Susan, and Bob headed for home. We later heard that all but John met for dinner that evening. John ended up going to the ER and having some medical tests done. Apparently he picked up a tick on our hike and contracted Colorado Tick Fever. We've heard that he is back to normal and is now immune to CTF.

After picking up our mail, we finally arrived home about midnight. We set up our tent in the living room to dry, hung out all of our wet stuff, and fell into bed exhausted. With two days to get ready to leave for the Green River raft trip in Desolation and Gray Canyons, we felt a little stressed. The next morning Cliff and Andrew called from the airport to say good-bye as they were making their connecting flight. Then their flight got canceled and they came over to spend several hours with us rather than wait at the airport. We went out for Chinese food before delivering them back to the airport for a 10 PM flight. It was Cliff's birthday and he wasn't too thrilled about spending close to twelve hours at the airport. Both planned to get off the plane, shower and shave, then go directly to work. They must have been basket cases.

This was a great trip. The wildflowers were the best we've seen. The four 12,500' passes were extremely challenging. The people were great and a good time was had by all. For our next Weminuche Wilderness adventure, we're hoping to explore the eastern end near Pagosa Springs and enjoy some of those hot springs.

Participants: Craig Camp, David Dennett, Ron Dilks, Cliff Elton, Andrew Gilchrist, Susan Groth, Craig Johnston, John Justice, Bob Marley, & Anne Seebold.

Green River Raft (7/30-8/6) by Mike Blevins:

This was a magical trip. The Green River through Desolation and Gray canyons is a wilderness river cutting deep through the Utah redrock with immense canyons, stupendous vistas, and numerous historical artifacts. Throughout the trip wildlife was abundant, river traffic light and the weather almost perfect. There were few rapids on the first day, but they steadily increased in frequency and difficulty throughout the week. Over the course of 84 miles we encountered over 50 rapids including a couple of class IV and some III's. Perhaps best of all was the camaraderie of the group which consisted of people from all over the United States, brought together only by Bob & Susie's amazing organizational skills and their vision of true adventure travel. With good doses of humor and a shared goal, some of us went from being complete strangers to close friends while demonstrating the positive power of teamwork along the way. When you think of the ideal outdoor camping adventure, this trip was everything one might imagine. A week of outstanding white water rafting, hiking, camping and camaraderie in a magnificent wilderness setting.

Fifteen of us met at Green River State Park and added our personal gear and smaller rafts to the colossal pile of equipment brought by Bob and Susie. After dropping cars at the Swasey's Rapid take-out, we started the long shuttle to Sand Wash. Along the main highway we spotted our first wildlife, a herd of pronghorn antelope grazing peacefully. A beautiful excursion in its own right, the shuttle route eventually leaves the highway and includes 70 miles of dirt road along Nine Mile Creek and its canyon rim before finally descending into Sand Wash. The push to complete the shuttle in one day sent Ted, Mike, and Susie dashing back with the empty vehicles to the airport at Green River. Upon arrival there, we found Redtail Aviation waiting to fly us up-canyon despite threatening rain storms. Heavy cross winds made the bouncy mesa-top landing a treat for everyone but the pilot. We hiked off the mesa in the rain. While all this was happening the boats were being rigged and camp made for the first night.

The launch at Sand Wash was preceded by a very unusual morning thundershower. Our flotilla consisted of Bob and Susie's large rafts, the paddle raft, and Doug's borrowed cataraft. A slow leak in one pontoon of that cataraft would dog him all week. In addition, Ron & Rick brought hard shell kayaks and Charlotte was running her new inflatable K-2 kayak (purple). Kate also brought her inflatable K-1 kayak (red), but spent much of her time rowing the cataraft. This provided a spare boat which soon became popular as Tom, Mike, Steve, Jim, and Lou switched off.

The first 16 miles were mostly flatwater with the river running at 7,000 cfs. Recent flash-floods gave the water a brilliant vermilion color and there was considerable flotsam in the water. Later in the week the twigs, bark, small branches, and leaves disappeared from the river as the clouds disappeared and the rainstorms ceased. The mud content of the water also declined. About mid-day most of us got a clear view of a brilliantly-marked, large bird of prey nesting on the canyon walls and flying above us. The white spot in the center of black underwings should have given it away but even Charlotte was stumped. We camped at Rock House that night. Ted captained the paddle raft (the Tomato) and soon had the crew adept at doing spins and backing. His seasoned strategy, however, was to minimize excessive paddling and turns, doing only what was needed. Rick got to practice his Eskimo roll on Jack Creek Rapid. The rapid won that time. Camp was at Cedar Ridge Canyon just below Firewater Rapid. Mike was forced to dive into the water to recover his waterproof camera as it slid off Bob's boat while gear was being removed too hastily.

We had much stronger rapids the next day. Lou started the morning with a spectacular capsize in Ron's blue kayak at Fretwater Falls. He wasn't up for a roll but was eventually pulled over to an eddy and retired to the paddle boat for awhile. Down-river at tricky Surprise Rapid, Jim flipped the inflatable purple kayak in an unexpected hole. His rescue was made difficult by the large separation between boat and swimmer. With Mike steadying Jim's boat from the red inflatable, Kate jumped for the boat and eventually got aboard. Debbie then hauled Jim onto Susie's raft with the classical life jacket yank. We pulled into the lower camp at Rock Creek Ranch at 12:45 PM after 12.5 miles on the river. Several groups independently hiked up Rock Creek and discovered a fantastic swimming hole. Our swimming hole expert rated it as one of the best in the west (see Tom's page). Walking up the trail along Rock Creek, all three hiking groups spotted and identified fresh bear scat. But only Bob and Susie spied the shy mule deer along the creek by the river. After dinner Kate surprised us all by nonchalantly floating past camp on her way from the groover back to her tent.

Even better rapids followed. Steve took an early dip by flipping the red inflatable kayak at Snap Canyon Rapid. Bob couldn't remember anything special about Belknap Falls, but it turned out to be a steep, short chute. We stopped at Chandler Creek for a short hike to view the Denis Julien Inscription and some petroglyphs. The river goddess and ladies in waiting posed for their portrait there. Joe Hutch Canyon Rapid at Cow Swim turned out to be a twisty class III with tricky lateral waves. However, everyone made it without trouble. We lunched below it on Susie's excellent turkey burritos. Bob and Ted nixed the idea of camping there and it was back on the river. At McPherson Ranch we made a water stop and hiked around the abandoned ranch-resort. Tom finally got to row the cataraft when Kate and Doug decided to use an inner tube to float down the final couple of rapids to camp. Tom discovered that, unlike Susie & Bob's expertly counterbalanced oars, the cataraft oars were unweighted which made it more difficult to row. Camp that night was just above Wire Fence Rapid. Not sufficiently tired by a 15.5 mile day, Ron and Rick decided to climb several thousand vertical feet to Broken Finger Arch. They started off by crossing the river at 4:30 PM and climbed about two thirds of the way up before getting spooked by routes where a down climb would be difficult, especially in the dark. With the aid of a nearly full moon and their flashlights, they returned by 9:15 PM. The cook team saved them some of the superb soup and poppy-seed cake and they declared it all to be a great adventure.

The next morning we quickly ran Wire Fence Rapid and then scouted Three Fords Rapid. A class IV with big hydraulics, it looked tough. We watched the D'vorak group run it and then ran it ourselves without any problems. Later that morning Mike switched to the red inflatable and managed to overturn in front of our Range Creek Rapid campsite. Pulled to an eddy on the far side by Rick and Ron in their kayaks, he eventually was able to ferry across the river to camp. After only 6.5 miles, we had stopped early to allow time to climb the butte at Range Creek. Within an hour of stopping, Debbie ran into the main camp area and reported a bear snooping around her tent. Of course she left Lou sleeping in the tent, but a rescue party was promptly dispatched. The bear and cub didn't seem interested when confronted with 10 people and wandered off quickly. We took extra precautions with food that night but they didn't make a return visit.

The hike at Range Creek turned out to be one of the best. Ted and Mary started out early but they missed the chimney climb downstream and took a shorter route to the summit. Most everyone else followed Bob along the river, up through the rock chimney, and then on up several tiers of rock scrambles to the summit. A fast hiker, Bob was munching peanuts on the summit before most of us arrived. The view from there was spectacular. We could see clear up to Broken Finger Arch and the previous day's camp. Bob knew a shortcut down and he was soon merrily embroiled in a juniper berry war with Susie. While exploring upstream from our camp, Ted spotted bear tracks on the beach, but we saw no further evidence of bears in camp. However, bears were quickly forgotten when Mary regaled us during happy hour with her experiences as a high-boots, hot-pants, Nancy-Sinatra-like cocktail waitress. Even better was her short, sweet career as a TV exercise queen to a telephone audience of one.

We left the Range Creek camp a little late because a foraging group led by Susie and Bob took time to liberate 104 beers (Bud Natural Light) which had been washed up on an island from another group's capsize. Needless to say, there was plenty of beer for the rest of the trip. Several miles down-river we pulled out to scout Coal Creek Rapid. This is the "biggie" with a mean hole capable of flipping even the larger rafts. Bob, Susie, and Doug decided to take a chute on the right and avoid the hole which was a little further towards the center of the river. Despite being a little worried, Charlotte took the same route without trouble. Perhaps as tribute to the river gods, she lost her paddling gloves along the scouting trail. She was bummed. Tom, in the red inflatable, tried the left side which turned out to be a cheat with no real excitement. Ted in the paddle raft took the same course, but steered a little closer to center to give the crew some fun. Ron and Rick played the rapid with their kayaks and Rick practiced his surfing skills. Later Mike rowed Susie's raft through some light riffles and got the hang of rowing in lively water.

We sighted our first wheeled vehicle in a week on the dirt road at Nefertiti rock. Steve and Bob also spotted a small herd of healthy looking bighorn sheep nearby. Camp was a little downstream just below Butler Rapid. It was a great final camp. Ted and Mike ran Butler and Sand Knolls rapids in inner tubes. Great fun. So much so, in fact that Ted took the run twice more with Mary, Ron, and Rick. Steve also got in on the action by running the red inflatable kayak through the two rapids and carrying it a half mile back upstream along the road. Kate talked Ron into giving her a kayak rolling lesson. She's a quick study and almost had it down by the end of the session.

Our last night on the river. Bob did wonders with steaks on the grill. Several of us celebrated by breaking out our last clean t-shirts. Susie topped them all by wearing a light party dress. With unlimited booty beer and the last of the ice, we partied hard. Starting with some masterful magic tricks by Tom and card tricks by Rick, we finally got around to "Butt Darts". Competition was stiff. Susie put up a good showing until she reached the can, missing by a couple of inches. Ron was the first to tinkle the quarters into the can. Then Kate and Rick also managed to put'em where they count. What is it about kayakers?

The Swasey's Rapid takeout were just three miles downriver from Butler Rapid and we were off the river by 10:00 AM. Washing the boats turned into a major water fight. Even the "boat holders" standing in back of the boats got sloshed. Bob seemed to be the target of everyone's errant buckets of river water. On the run to the airport, Susie saw another herd of pronghorn grazing and both she and Bob spotted another group of bighorn as they left Swasey's. After everything was loaded we adjourned to the Powell museum picnic area for lunch and our final good-byes.

Participants: Jim Amos, Mike Blevins, Mary Bruning, Ted Bruning, Charlotte Ekback, Susan Groth, Steve Guhin, Tom Hillegass, Kate Lutkemeier, Rick Mitchell, Bob Marley, Debbie Martin, Lou Martin, Doug Marx, & Ron Youngs.

Grand Gulch Plateau Basecamp (8/16-8/22) by Scott McCollough:

We met at the Cigarette Springs road (9.4 miles south of the Grand Gulch ranger station). Peter and Cheri arrived first, followed shortly by myself. Then Mike and Denise arrived after a brief unplanned visit to Monument Valley. Bob showed up at 8:05 and promptly got razzed by old friend Peter for being late. We took the Cigarette Springs road in to that evening's planned camp at the Seven Kiva trailhead. All the others (Dave, MiMi, Blue, Cliff and Donna) traveled up from Phoenix with Bob and Suzy in a 15 passenger Ford rental van. They had all of the commissary and food and needed to set up camp the previous evening to get to their personal gear. Two others had canceled from the trip, making our final group size twelve.

After dusting off the hiking boots and setting up our personal stuff, we headed around the south side of Road Canyon on a well-worn trail to find Citadel Ruin. Initially, we hiked out to a bit short of the Point but couldn't find a non-vertical way into the canyon below. Having not been there before, Bob and Suzy were under the mistaken impression that this ruin was low on Citadel Point, so we hiked back up to the head of the side canyon and worked our way down. We eventually spotted the ruin right under the cap-stone on Citadel Point and determined it was totally inaccessible from where we were. So back up the canyon we went. On the way in Peter thought he spotted a ruin so we stopped to explore this site on the way out. We then worked our way back to the neck between the mesa and Citadel Point and hiked to the ruin. Very impressive and obviously very defensive. There were cliff dwellings on both sides of the cap rock, with three elaborate apartments located in one south-facing block. Back in camp for the evening, we rested, visited, and had dinner. High, thin clouds at mid-day still allowed the brilliant rays through making it extremely hot. A brief thunderstorm and a sprinkle occurred during happy hour. After dinner the conversation centered on labor/management relationships. This became a popular theme for the week, especially when Blue listened to her radio one evening and learned her union had gone on strike during her vacation.

Monday morning, we packed up our gear and then hiked down into Road Canyon to Seven Kiva ruin. The trail was okay, at times more like a route, with some bouldering. This interesting eight hundred year old ruin has two well preserved kivas, complete with wall plaster and roofs. One still had a deflector shield between the air hole and the fire pit. The weather was hot again so we went a bit further downstream and dipped in a large, chest-deep pool of water. We then hiked back to camp, had lunch, and loaded the last of the gear so we could head for Muley Point. Reaching the Cedar Mesa rim, we followed a faint track east along the rim to near Cedar Point. Our camp that night featured spectacular views of Monument Valley. We watched a wind and sand storm race across the valley below until it hit camp and blew everything everywhere. Dinner that night was sword fish with cabbage salad and pound cake with fruit and whipped cream. Denise wanted the remaining whip cream for unknown reasons.

Tuesday we packed up and headed north on Highway 261. Turning east onto the Snow Flat/Comb Wash road (also know as the Mormon Trail), we continued several miles to a car park on the south side of the road. We grabbed our packs and headed north along an old road, now closed to everything except foot traffic as part of the proposed wilderness study. After about one mile we reached the rim of McCloyd Canyon and could easily locate numerous ruins on the opposite canyon wall. We dropped into the canyon on a skimpy trail and scrambled up the other side. The best ruin at this location is known as Moon House but the surrounding ruins are quite extensive. Moon House was incredible - an outer defensive wall with lots of peep holes and inner apartments with some art (pictographs). Very well built - very square doors and walls. Absolutely beautiful. The best ruin of the trip and of course my camera battery died. We explored the primary site and the ruins around the corner for about an hour, ate lunch on a ledge, and then visited more ruins a bit upstream. The latter had lots of heavy timbers with dark plastered walls. The color of the walls was almost a dark red/purple and there was a spectacular Kiva doorway. To cool off, we splashed in some puddles for a bit and then hiked back to the cars, drove out to highway 261, north to the Fish/Owl road, eventually camping less than a mile from 261. There were no great views that evening, but there were lots of big pinion pines with much-needed shade.

After a couple of us had taken down our tents the next morning, Bob announced we would stay at this camp an extra night (that's management for you!). We loaded up two vehicles, leaving the other two behind, and headed for the Fish Canyon and Owl Canyon trailheads. Starting with Fish Canyon, the trail crosses the mesa for a mile or so before eventually reaching the rim. From there it descends rapidly and is easy to follow in the streambed. At the bottom we found flowing water and big swimming holes. We headed downstream looking for Wren House ruin. Since it is well hidden, we missed it again and had to backtrack a bit. Then it was a long loose rock scramble up to the ruin. The ruin is on a tight very exposed ledge, and only Bob and Suzy had the courage to visit the entire site. Neat ruin, great two tone apartment and a "T" or keyhole doorway. Back down into the canyon to splash around in some pools again and then a relentlessly hot march back to the rim and on to the cars. This canyon is absolutely beautiful - abrupt walls, a deep canyon with lots of water and plant life. Some of the group went on a much shorter hike to an Owl Canyon ruin while the rest called it quits for the day and returned to camp. Mike and Denise took the day off and visited civilization in Blanding, Utah. They picked up ice, water, soda and other misc. supplies - much needed and greatly appreciated. They spent some time at the new dinosaur museum and came back raving about it. Back at camp, we all showered and read the papers that Mike and Denise had picked up. Conversation then turned to the next day activities and whether anyone other than Bob eventually wanted to do a 10-11 mile hike down Todie Canyon to Grand Gulch, returning by Kane Gulch to the road.

Thursday was the day Labor revolted. It seemed that nobody felt like a ten mile hike so Bob suggested a secret ballot to determine a suitable trip length. He would suggest something to fit after we knew what the majority wanted to do. The consensus was 6 miles would be about right. Knowing this, Bob chose Slickhorn Canyon Access #4 as the entry with #3 as the exploratory exit. We broke camp and headed to Slickhorn - the road goes west from the Cigarette Springs road. From there, we hiked down canyon. The weather was a bit cloudy, but still warm. At some major drop-offs, Blue, Mike and Denise turned back - possibly a wise choice. After viewing a virtually unreachable rim ruin along the way, we made it to a small ruin on the canyon floor and ate our trail lunches. A few of us visited this ruin two years ago when we backpacked up Slickhorn Canyon from the San Juan. However, the trail to the main arm of Slickhorn was now badly overgrown. Suzy attempted to go downstream to locate another faded-memory ruin and found the trail was washed out from recent flash floods. Discretion seemed appropriate, so back up Slickhorn #4 we went. At the last big pour-over obstacle, Peter spotted a site that was shown on Bob's map. He, Bob and Suzy visited it while the rest of us trudged up the canyon. They reported it was a short, easy contour over to it, and it was quite impressive. There were many well-built structures and lots of art - both pictographs and petroglyphs. The weather by now was very hot - so the rest of us dragged our asses to Mike and Denise's always well stocked cooler and sucked it dry again.

We decided to return to the Cedar Point camp for the views. Set up early, unwound, and then part of the group went to Muley Point to see the views. The rest visited and enjoyed the shade. Were we surprised when Cliff and Donna's tent was seen flying above us? Was Cliff ever surprised? It went 50-70 feet into the air - four times! Cliff finally caught up with it several hundred feet down the rim road. Peter chased him down in his van, and helped him return it to camp. Even the gang hanging out more than a mile away at Muley Point saw its flights. Their initial thought was someone was hang gliding off the rim, Fortunately the tent wasn't damaged. Even more fortunately, it didn't fly off the rim to the lower rim 2000' below us. After dinner, Labor elected Peter as Head Union Dude, and had him negotiate with Management about tomorrow's scheduled ten mile hike and proposed 6:00 AM wake up call for the cook team. Labor won again, management changed the hike location to Natural Bridges National Monument and a more respectable 6:30 wake up.

Friday started with a light but persistent rain and heavy fog. We wound up cooking oatmeal at 7:00 AM in a light drizzle. Packing our stuff wet, we loaded up and headed north to Natural Bridges. The fog finally lifted as we drove and the sun returned. After a short stop at the visitors center, we headed to the campground, took four of their thirteen sites, and quickly set up our gear to dry. Returning to the visitors center, we watched the slide show, and shopped in the gift center. Lunch was unbeatable bean salad and tons of leftovers. Boy everybody ate. Wondering whether we could walk let alone hike, we loaded up two vehicles and headed out the bridge view drive to the Sipapu trailhead. Seven of us were determined to hike down-canyon to Kachina Bridge and meet up with Suzy, Cliff and Donna, who chose to be on the shorter ranger guided tour. The bridge to bridge hikers saw a couple of ruins along their way and more rock art. At Kachina, we found an extensive panel on the bridge abutments, and were led to an even more impressive site by the ranger.

We headed back to camp, showered, played hearts (Peter won again, as usual), ate, then talked extensively about the continuing US West strike. The Grand Gulch Ranger stopped in to visit (apparently he helps out at Bridges when it is busy there in the summer). He told Bob and Suzy about a recent flash flood in Kane Creek that washed the trail out completely and was going to require extensive reconstruction this fall. According to him, a large mud hole at the start of the canyon was very difficult to get around. After dinner, Suzy insisted we play butt darts. We were a very talented group with 11 participants and 7 successes.

Saturday the group started breaking up. Mike and Denise left for home immediately, as did Scott. The rest headed for Todie Canyon in the Grand Gulch Primitive Area for a half day of hiking. The route into Todie turned out to be a poorly marked descent down a drainage but the reward was a seemingly endless ledge of granaries and dwellings. Unfortunately, some of the most interesting ones were inaccessible without taking significant climbing risks. The group retreated after a couple hours of fruitful exploration. After returning to the vehicles Bob, Suzy, Cheri, and Peter had still not had enough so they went to look at a rim ruin Peter spotted on the way into Todie. When they returned it was noon, it was hot again, and enthusiasm had definitely waned, so everyone said their good-byes and headed for home, or their next adventure in the case of the vacationing Cheri and Peter.

Participants: Peter Curia, Cliff Elton, Susan Groth, Dave Kehs, Bob Marley, Denise Mills, Mike Mills, Scott McCollough, Donna Schick, Blue Stringer, Cheri Van Sant, & MiMi Yui.

Grand Canyon Rafting (9/3-9/19) by Dave Sample and Susan Groth:

With Northwest Airlines on strike, we were wondering until the last minute whether our Canadian kayakers would arrive in time. After circuitous airline and personal vehicle connections, they eventually arrived around noon and Bob collected them, and their kayaks, in the big Penske rental truck. Meanwhile Susan G. and Charlotte finished up the shopping, Marge monitored the phone, and the remaining guys began sorting and packing gear. It was the usual pre-trip madhouse. Once packed up, everyone happily munched down pizza while viewing a historical Grand Canyon tape that Dave Kehs had brought along and Charlotte's tape of her Zambezi River rafting experience. Bob and Carl left for Flagstaff after eating so they could be early to pick up the toilets from Canyon REO and to get John's rafting gear loaded. Joined by Bob's tenants Zen and Julie who came along to drive the shuttle, the rest left Phoenix early the following morning.

Everyone from Colorado or Utah arrived at Lees Ferry before 8:00 AM that day. They quickly unloaded their gear and two of them then shuttled the vehicles to Flagstaff. Everyone regrouped at the Maverick gas station without a hitch and they were soon on their way to Lees Ferry. After brief stops on the old bridge and at Marble Canyon for post cards and souvenirs, they joined the rest of us on the launch ramp and began the arduous task of sorting and loading the rafts. Zen and Julie kindly hung out until we culled out the un-needed gear so it could be sent back to Phoenix. It took until 4:00 PM to get things in order. The NPS ranger graciously checked most of the gear immediately, which allowed us an early start the next day. As we found out during the trip, the planning was near perfect and everything worked like a well-oiled machine. Our meal that night was superb, as we came to expect. During dishes cleanup, we frightened a rattlesnake that was crawling through camp. This snake grew from about 3 feet that night to well over 6 feet the next morning as the story got told over and over. The scenery at the put-in was unbelievable, as it would be throughout the trip.

According to the board at the put-in the projected river flows were supposed to be a constant 15,000 cfs through Labor Day weekend, followed by: Monday to Friday flows of 13,000-21,000 cfs, Saturday 13,000-20,000 cfs, Sunday 12,000-16,000 cfs (only for a few hours). The flows we experienced over the next few days were anything but constant but perhaps that was influenced by the rain. On launch day, we were on the river by 10:00 AM for a long day with no hikes. We camped 20 miles downstream, just above North Canyon, and had lots of rain that night. The excellent dinner was swordfish, cabbage salad and carrot cake. I quit listing the meals because they were all so good. Lots of variety and excellent recipes.

Our second morning, like most days, we were on the river by about 8:30 AM. With the rain we lost our last clear Colorado water as the larger side canyons fed tons of mud into the river. We were disappointed that North Canyon could not be hiked a long distance by any but the most adventurous. It was in flash flood, raging red-brown, and was very interesting to watch. One of the commercial guides said he had never seen it like that. Neither had Bob or Susan. We camped that night at Silver Grotto. I soon found out that Bob knows the best places to camp and hike and is an excellent Grand Canyon information resource. The thunder started while the sun was still shining, we marveled at the noise. As the wind and rain became torrential, we had to catch and hold the dining canopy before it blew away. Heavily loaded tents were being blown across the beach until they got better anchored with people or heavy stuff. The canyon walls were covered with HUGE red waterfalls (a sight no one will ever forget). Several cascaded over tent sites and the dining canopy, pelting us with water and stones. Tents had holes ripped in them. After two stones went through their tent, the Canadian kayakers leapt out and ran to the safety of the river's edge. They quickly put on kayaking helmets and returned to rescue their tent from one of the larger waterfalls. As quickly as it started, the storm stopped and we dashed around assessing the damage and taking pictures. People with hair, and some without, decided to wash it in the Silver Grotto runoff. This was our first warm water and was welcome even though it was muddy. Within a few hours things were drying out and people's spirits were rising. This was shaping up as a very memorable trip.

The "roaring 20's" provided us with several fun rapids the next day. We picked up clear water for drinking and filled some of the solar showers at poison ivy infested but beautiful Vasey's Paradise. We also visited Redwall Canyon. Powell said it would hold 50,000 people but I suspect he was trying to get a government grant. 5,000 people seemed more likely. We played Frisbee, horseshoes, and other games under this massive overhang. Lunch at Nautiloid Canyon featured a hunt for 3' long nautiloid fossils. At our Eminence Break camp, the Canadians had their first encounter with a ringtail cat. A rock slide behind Bob and Susan's tent that night woke many of us up but caused no damage. Early the next morning we took a fun hike up Saddle Canyon to a clear waterfall. We reached the large camp at Nankoweap by lunch. Some decided to hike up Nankoweap Canyon in the heat of the day, which resulted in a 2 Ibuprofen night. This was our hottest day so far so we finally got almost everything dry. We had so many options that everyone found something fun to do.

The Little Colorado was running brown so we made our stop there a brief one. Since the Big Colorado got considerably cloudier after the confluence, we picked up water for several days. It was a short, wind-free river day and we shared Lava Camp with a commercial group at lunch. After they left, we set up camp and continued our laundry drying efforts. Lava Creek was running clear and the solar showers were filled once again. While trying to recycle some Coors Light, Canadian Dave encountered another rattlesnake near his favorite pee spot. It was also quite close to the tents and didn't move off until night fall. Hikes up to the River House ruin and around the Unkar Delta were the major highlights the next day. We pulled into our camp at 75 Mile Rapid in the late afternoon. A few people took a short hike up this pretty canyon but most of us relaxed and bathed. Happy hour started early. It was steak night and we were all sad to be losing Carl the next day at Phantom. It poured again while we were trying to roast the potatoes and we had to hold a roll-a-table over the coals to keep them going. Luckily the rain stopped quickly and we were able to enjoy our steaks and get the dishes done before it started sprinkling again.

Hance Rapid first thing in the morning can be a little unnerving but we all had good runs. Dave and Brad filmed each other and some of the rafts coming through. As usual, the Inner Gorge was full of big waves. Rich was waiting when we arrived at the Phantom Ranch Boat Beach. Many of us took the walk up to Phantom to mail cards and buy goodies, stopping to fill water jugs on their way back. Bright Angel Creek was also running brown, so we were glad for the Roaring Springs pipe line. We dropped Carl off at Pipe Creek and continued down-river to our small camp at Trinity Creek. After dinner, we had a ringtail visiting our kitchen. He posed nicely on the rocks for photos and didn't seem the least bit shy. It rained again while we were making dinner. It seemed that we would never get an arid day to dry and stow our mildewed gear. It was just wet enough each day to have to be dried out again the next.

Hermit and Granite were big rapids with huge waves. Again the kayakers videoed our runs. It was a cold, drizzly, long day on the water. By the time we reached Crystal, we were all drenched. Pressing on through the Jewels, we passed the Oars group, whom we had expected to find camped at North Bass, finishing their lunch along the side of the river. Our hopes of securing that choice campsite were dashed when we found a Hatch group laying-over there. However, we secured the big beach just below and bathed while trying to dry out stinky laundry. The Hatch trip stopped in to visit the next morning while the boatman tried to resolve motor problems. Several of Susan and Bob's Seattle friends were on that trip and they enjoyed catching up on gossip. We left the beach late and arrived at Elves Chasm just as the Oars group was leaving. We hiked and played in Elves for several hours, leaving after lunch. The camp at BlackTail was ripped up and not very appealing so we continued downstream to another huge beach. It drizzled again during dinner preparations but the wind was calm and it soon quit.

Spectre was big as usual and Paul S. had an exciting run against the right wall, half of it backwards. We suspect it is the fault of the boat, as it has been there before with a different oarsman. After the rafts continued downstream, kayaker Dave took his only big swim and wet exit from his kayak. It seems that Spectre ripped his spray skirt off and swamped him. Bedrock was fairly easy, as was Deubendorff. We made the left side run through the big stuff at 'Dubie and pulled into the Stone Creek eddy to take a short hike. Upper Stone has burned off since the last time we visited. It wasn't quite as pretty as usual but we're sure it will come back. After our hike, three members of the group donned wet suits and lifevests and swam the lower half of Deubendorff again. We planned to pull in at Tapeats Creek for clear water but we never dreamed the camp would be open. The wade to our campsites from the kitchen was well worth the effort.

An early breakfast and trail snacks got nine of us out quickly for a long loop hike. This was a "Marley Mile" hike - lots farther and tougher than most expected. The nine hiked up to Thunder Falls, across Surprise Valley, to the Deer Creek Throne Room, and down to the Deer Creek Narrows where they met those who moved the boats for lunch. The hikers saw a bighorn ram in Surprise Valley. Above the ledge where we lunched, we spotted 4 Anasazi hand prints that no one in our group had ever seen before. We doubt that they are new additions, they were simply missed on prior trips. Since the camp across from Deer had been torn up by the recent rains, we pulled in at Pancho's kitchen, which had lots of beach to play toss games on.

Up early and on the water, it was a shady day down to Upset. We couldn't get into Matkatamiba because the three Hatch baloney boats filled the mouth. I think this is the only place we really wanted to stop that was unavailable. We spent several hours at Havasupai swimming and playing. This was the group's first encounter with the "mud people". After Havasupai, we rowed long down to National Canyon. That evening, people were noticeably concerned about running Lava Falls the next morning. In the morning we had planned to stop at Fern Glen for a short hike but the Oars group was hiking there so we continued on and had lunch across from Vulcan's Anvil. We scouted Lava on the right and it looked ugly so we decided to wait for the flow to rise. Waiting was good - we eventually saw the six OARS rafts go through and followed their line with excellent results. Everyone was elated to be right side up below Lava and we camped as soon as possible, around mile 183. We wanted to have a talent show that night but it had been a long and trying day, most of us weren't ready to perform.

The hike up to the rim at Whitmore Wash over lava flows was VERY HOT. Everyone was starting to think about the end of the trip and dreading leaving all of the friends they had made. Our camp near mile 203, Engagement Camp, was a nice beach. The Cicada Mud People Band made their first public appearance for talent night followed by 4 very talented leg-crossers led by John. Marge entertained us with some kindergarten routines and Paul S. followed suit with a silly MacDonalds skit. The Canadian brothers recited an original poem. Dave Kehs sang us an unusual, original version of "It Ain't Necessarily So", with lyrics. We hope to publish both of these in an upcoming newsletter. Darkness put a hold on the rest of our talents but we pledged to resume the following evening.

Some of us swam mile 217 rapid on our way down to our last camp at Mile 220. While playing Frisbee, we had our first relatively major injury. Paul V. gouged his foot on submerged limestone and Paul S. had to use 4 stitches to close the hole. Lucky for Paul V., Paul S. was available, Susan G. was headed for the Crazy Glue and Steri-Strips. The talent show continued, with mind reading tricks, puzzles, a visit from Shanana, and a repeat performance of "It Ain't Necessarily So". This time Brad caught more of it on video. After an early breakfast the last morning, we rowed to Diamond Creek, cleaned and loaded all of the gear, said our good-byes, drove to Flagstaff, said more good-byes and headed for home.

Synopsis: Big water, awesome scenery, unseasonably cool (6 nights of rain), great hikes almost daily, perfect trip planning, great food and great people.
"Rafting the Grand Canyon ain't solely about big rapids."

It's about:

The Good: no phone, a peaceful place to think, camping by a noisy rapid under the stars, going to bed early exhausted, getting up early and absorbing more of the canyon, making new friends, well planned/prepared meals, nature - bats and lizards were my favorite, fine sand that will stay with us for 2 more weeks, challenging - beautiful hikes, warm side springs.

The Bad: no showers, relieving oneself in less than private setting plus not enough time off to do it more often, grit in everything (food, water, clothes, sleep, personal orifices).

The Ugly: bathing in the cold, muddy water, little nicks and cuts that won't heal, dry skin, the drive to get to and from the river.

Participants: Charlotte Ekback, Susan Groth, Rich Harter, Susan Hildebrand, Dave Kehs, Brad Koop, Dave Koop, John Lupo, Kate Lutkemeier, Bob Marley, Carl Muller, Marge Padgett, Dave Sample, Nicole Schmutz, Paul Schmutz, Lauren Schweikle, & Paul vanBarneveld.

Our Repeat Travelers:

Recognizing that we keep a computer database of our trips, a number of you have asked how many trips you've joined to date. To answer this question we printed the number of trips each of you have done with us on the cover sheet which comes with this newsletter. We also checked what percentage of repeaters came each year and found it ran pretty consistently between 70-80% depending on the types of trips we organized in any given year.

Our most frequent travelers are listed below. Many of them have traveled with us for over 10 years and helped us make many of these trips happen We've known several of them for close to 15 years now. Charlotte has almost become a family member by participating in 33 of the 91 trips we've organized since 1987. There are currently 107 people on our newsletter mailing list who've taken at least one trip with us and 71 of them have participated in two or more.

Name Number of TripsNameNumber of Trips
Charlotte Ekback 33Ron Dilks 12
Carl Muller 19Kay Threlkeld 12
Jim Laskowski 14Peter Curia 11
Wanda Mattarocci 13Dick Elwyn 11
Marge Padgett 13Gary Patterson 11
Ted Bruning 12Char Taylor 11

1999 Whitewater Rafting Trips:

Private raft trips require a permit from the regulatory agency. It will soon be time for everyone interested in 1999 trips to submit permit applications. In a couple of months we'll send a river letter to all of our friends who've either rafted with us previously or expressed interest in a future trip. If you're interested in non-commercial rafting next year, we'll need your help with applications in December and early January. Those who regularly receive our quarterly mailings realize by now that we have no special access to private rafting permits. If one of us doesn't obtain a permit, then we can't organize a group trip and the two of us will probably be boating by ourselves on a last minute cancellation or on someone else's trip.

We encourage everyone who is interested in rafting next year to apply for a launch date on the river of your choice (See our Western River Information page for additional information about rivers where we enjoy whitewater rafting). The permit application costs are usually minimal ($5.00-$10.00). Recognizing that a trip isn't possible without a permit, it is our position that on a trip that we organize the person with the permit is obviously the first choice to go, the people with gear and experience are the second choices, those who helped from the start by applying for permits are next, and anyone else who might be interested but hasn't helped will be invited last if there is any space available.

General Trip Information:

For you to be considered for inclusion on one of our trips, we must receive your trip deposit and a completed Questionnaire/Assumption of Risk (Q/AR) form. If you plan to join a trip and you haven't done this, please do so now. If a trip is popular enough to require a waitlist, we'll use five criteria to determine who's selected. Initial preference will be given to those who have a current mailing application on file, have paid the necessary trip deposit, and have promptly returned their Q/AR form. If this isn't sufficient, we then compare trip deposit dates and lastly Q/AR postmark dates.

We continue to send information to our travel friends using e-mail. If you want to be the first to know what's going on, send us your e-mail address. We'll also continue to communicate unique travel opportunities by 'special mailings' to those who travel with us frequently and who have a mailing application on file.

Best of luck in your upcoming adventures, whatever they are, and wherever they may be. We hope you can join one of our trips so we can spend some time traveling with you next year.

Susan & Bob

Updated on Thursday, December 8, 2006 @ 4:30 MST
© 1995-2006 by Robert R. Marley